Suzy Assumes the Risk

Originally appeared in the September 1998 issue of the ABA Journal.

Harmless Error - A Truly Minority View on the Law

Suzy Assumes the Risk


Suzy Spikes is joining a soccer team and the insurance industry is jittery. Suzy is my daughter’s litigious, histrionic and some might say irretrievably delinquent 11-year-old pal. You might recall the last time we checked in on her she was vigorously appealing her home detention for unlawful insertion of a Monopoly game piece into a neighbor’s nasal cavity (Feb. ‘98).

Insurers of the La Petite Soccer League agreed to let Suzy play only if she signed a strict code of conduct and exculpatory agreement. Since Suzy has been banned from every sports team in the state except the “Juvie Detention Center Fightin’ Tigers,” Art and June Spikes felt they had no choice but to acquiesce. The agreement should prove useful to lawyers confronted with other high risk situations involving dangerous animals, psychiatric patients or preadolescent girls:

Airtight Liability Agreement

The La Petite Soccer League (“La Petite”) and Suzanne Marie Spikes (“Probationer”) enter into this binding agreement, in consideration of which La Petite grants Probationer the privilege of participating in its soccer program and Probationer forfeits all of her legal rights:

1. Lawsuits conflict with the La Petite values of team spirit and cooperation and are forbidden by league rules. Probationer assumes the risk of any and all perceived injustices, feelings of persecution, preteen angst, gripes and grievances of any kind. To show her good faith, she shall dismiss her age discrimination claim against the Teeny Tiny College for Pixie Knowledge for making her take a nap when she was seven years old.

2. Probationer shall not share her views on the legal rights of children within 300 yards of La Petite.

3. Probationer shall be conclusively presumed to be the sole proximate cause of any physical injury, mental distress, casualty loss, vandalism, hostage situation or attorney’s fees occurring while she is on La Petite premises. La Petite shall be indemnified for all such losses.

4. Rulings by referees during league play are final and unappealable. Contrary to Probationer’s assertion, there are no “inalienable rights” in a soccer game. There are no rights at all. All rulings shall be accepted with a happy face and without verbally or physically assaulting the referees.

5. Probationer shall not aim soccer kicks at sensitive body parts of players, referees and especially coaches. In the likely event Probationer is expelled from a game, she shall not incite the crowd with chants of “Free Suzy Spikes” as occurred last summer at the Sock ‘Em, Chop ‘Em Karate Academy.

6. Probationer consents to random searches of her lunch box for her favorite snacks: Psycho-Amp Cola, Hunka-Chunka-Choco Chip Frisbees and Jetstream Sugar Bars.

Signed and Sealed this incredibly stressful day of September, 1998. (Against my will. Suzy.)

Postscript. League play got underway and Caitlin reports Suzy is excelling as a team leader. She scored four goals in a game last week, one of them legal. Her persuasive advocacy and hunger strike persuaded the coaches to change the team name from Daisy Girls to Marauding Femmes. She’s made lots of new friends, especially among the security guards. Her sports agent even bought her a new bike.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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